March 15, 2016
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samsung galaxy note 4 multitasking aa (11 of 12)

You know how Android repeatedly absorbs good ideas from third-party developers and OEMs into stock Android? Like floating notifications, the kill switch, lockscreen notifications, dark theme, split screen, granular app permissions and power saving modes? Well, it looks like one Android N feature we might be seeing in the near future will borrow an awful lot from Remix OS: freeform windows.

Evidence of the feature was uncovered in the Android N code by Ars Technica and it seems to indicate that Google has plans to step up its multi-window game by offering an “experimental freeform windows” mode in a future release.

<string name=”enable_freeform_support”>Enable freeform windows</string>
<string name=”enable_freeform_support_summary”>Enable support for experimental freeform windows.</string>

Ars hasn’t been able to get freeform multi-windows to work though and has spoken to an Android Development Advocate that assures them it doesn’t work in developer preview 1. Upon digging a little deeper, it was found that Google even mentions freeform multi-window in the Android N documentation:

Manufacturers of larger devices can choose to enable freeform mode, in which the user can freely resize each activity. If the manufacturer enables this feature, the device offers freeform mode in addition to split-screen mode.

What this will look like in practice sounds a lot like RemixOS, the Windows-like Android OS for desktops that allows you to, you guessed it, freely resize individual windows and drag them around the desktop, just like Windows.

We’re big fans of Remix OS here and are eagerly looking forward to where the team takes the idea. As much as it would be a shame to see Google absorb the concept into stock Android before RemixOS gets off the ground, it’s such a great feature we’d be equally happy to see it baked into stock Android as soon as possible.

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Of course, the same kind of thing has already appeared elsewhere, in Samsung devices for example. You’ve been able to use multi-window mode on LG and Samsung devices for ages and resize individual app windows with OEM tweaks to Android or multitasking apps for a long time too.

So a freeform windows mode in Android N is no newer than Remix OS which is no newer than Samsung’s resizable multi-windows which harks back to Windows itself. There’s nothing new under the sun, but there might soon be in stock Android.

Kris Carlon
Kris Carlon is a Senior Editor at Android Authority. He is a half-British Australian who lives in Berlin, travels a lot and is always connected to a laptop, phone, smartwatch or tablet (and occasionally a book).
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